Archive for July, 2009

ITV’s THE BILL Finally Grows Up

Posted in TV Tirades with tags , , , , , , , on July 17, 2009 by helenparker1212

I was recently watching ITV’s The Bill for the first time in around a year, when it began to dawn on me that something¬† was amiss. Thoughts such as ‘ooh, that was well filmed’ and ‘that was an excellent bit of dialogue’ began to enter my head, an occurence previously unknown to me in my fifteen-year-long relationship with this particular tv series. These were not my only causes for concern however, as it was then revealed that they are finally getting rid of that appalling ginger bloke Superintendent Heaton and the twenty-year dead weight of DCI Meadows. And to top it all off my two favourite characters, Smithy and Stone, proceeded to have the most epic wrestling match I’ve ever seen, on a par with Bates and Reeve in Women in Love, except, regrettably, with clothes on.

The Bill2

‘Something’s going on here’, I told myself, ‘The Bill is never this good’. Something cataclysmic must have happened to their production team, someone must have died, or fired all the writers. Alas, my suspicions were confirmed as soon as I googled The Bill and discovered numerous press releases about the revamping, in conjunction with its new primetime post-watershed slot of 9pm Thursdays and Fridays. Finally, The Bill is growing up. Could this mean we are finally going to have a police series to rival its US counterparts such as NYPD Blue, Law and Order, or even The Wire?? These are examples of American Quality television, where the struggle between the strict series format and the demands of serial narrative depth have struck a balance with gritty plotlines and emotionally complex characters. This is a balance which British TV series such as The Bill and Casualty have never before been able to master, festering as a result in a sort of habitual limbo of vacuous characterisation, unimaginably dull filming technique passing for verite, and churned out, never revisited storylines.

The Bill 1

Much of the press surrounding this new move has mentioned a desire to concentrate on character depth and more realistic, contemporary and even controversial storylines. Given the show’s hour length and two nights run, it has the potential for a mini-series’ worth of material every week. There is a war raging in tv between series and serial, but the fact is that today’s audience demands the ‘story of the week’ be balanced with an over-arching narrative which can allow for deeper character development. Those shows which do manage to strike the balance are much more rewarding and culturally worthwhile than those just happy to plod along unassumingly for 20 odd years, unnoticed and therefore uncancelled (Casualty). So bravo The Bill! It’s taken long enough, but if the previous four episodes of The Bill are anything to go by, it looks like we’re back on track for a return to Quality British tv which doesn’t involve any frikin Larks rising in Candleford.